As a member of wicked King Noah’s court in the Nephite colony established among the Lamanites, Alma the Elder was, by his own words, “caught in a snare, and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord”. However, when the Lord sent the prophet Abinadi around 150 BC to warn the people of impending destruction because of their wickedness, Alma “believed the words which Abinadi had spoken” and experienced a mighty change of heart. When Alma pled for the prophet’s release, the king was angry and ordered Alma’s execution. Alma fled for his life and secretly gathered together at the Waters of Mormon all those who wanted to be baptized and follow the principles of the gospel. Having founded the Church among the faithful, Alma led those who belonged to the Church through the wilderness to escape Lamanite persecution. For his valor and loyal service, he received a remarkable promise from the Lord: “Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep”. Eventually Alma and his group found their way to Zarahemla where he continued his inspired ministry among the Nephites until his death at age eighty-two.
Alma’s legacy includes expressions of key gospel themes. His reference to the charitable nature of the baptismal covenant has become the hallmark of devoted service and worthiness in the kingdom of God.
And now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?.
Like Moses, Alma liberated his people from both physical and spiritual bondage—physical bondage imposed by King Noah and his priests, and spiritual bondage overcome only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
And now as ye have been delivered by the power of God out of these bonds; yea, even out of the hands of king Noah and his people, and also from the bonds of iniquity, even so I desire that ye should stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free, and that ye trust no man to be a king over you.
And also trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.
Alma also taught universal truth about seeking the strength of God to overcome mortal suffering and hardship.
Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
History: Alma was a priest at the court of King Noah, the son of the colonizer Zeniff. Zeniff led an expeditionary force south from Zarahemla around 200 BC into the land of Lehi-Nephi, the region originally settled by Lehi and his family. Around 160 BC, the aging Zeniff conferred the kingdom upon his son Noah. However, Noah was a corrupt and evil leader who repelled the warnings of the prophet Abinadi and was eventually destroyed. Alma wrote down the words of Abinadi and taught them to his followers at the Waters of Mormon.
Once united with Mosiah and his people, Alma baptized Limhi, son of Noah, and the remainder of the other colonists who had also escaped a year previously and returned to their homeland once again. Alma then established the Church throughout Zarahemla, ordaining priests and teachers to carry on the work of the Lord. “Therefore they did assemble themselves together in different bodies, being called churches; every church having their priests and their teachers, and every priest preaching the word according as it was delivered to him by the mouth of Alma. And thus, notwithstanding there being many churches they were all one church, yea, even the church of God; for there was nothing preached in all the churches except it were repentance and faith in God”. Through communion with the Lord, Alma learned how to govern the Church according to the principles of moral agency and granting forgiveness unto the repentant. “And it came to pass that Alma did regulate all the affairs of the church; and they began again to have peace and to prosper exceedingly in the affairs of the church, walking circumspectly before God, receiving many, and baptizing many”.
Alma asked the Lord to bless his wayward son, Alma the Younger. An angel of the Lord intervened and called Alma the Younger to repentance. “And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith”. Alma the Younger repented, just as his father had done earlier, and continued the work of the ministry.